An 88-year-old man suffering from Alzheimer’s disease and whose driver’s license had been cancelled by the Illinois Secretary of State in 2010 was ticketed early on the morning of May 6 after he drove his Chevy van onto the Burlington Northern-Santa Fe Railroad tracks from Longcommon Road and got stuck east of the crossing.
Crew members on a BNSF freight train, heading east on the center track, saw the vehicle at about 3:15 a.m. and stopped his train west of the crossing. The crew reportedly contacted the railroad, which halted train traffic on the line, and alerted police.
BNSF spokeswoman Amy McBeth said the train crew saw the vehicle up ahead and stopped the train 500 feet west of it. There was no damage to the tracks, McBeth said. However, train traffic was shut down on the line from 3:15 a.m. to 5:30 a.m., McBeth said.
Had the driver gotten stuck an hour or so later, things could have ended badly. The first Metra commuter train heading eastbound from Aurora leaves the station at 4:30 a.m. and arrives in LaGrange at 5:13 a.m. From there, it runs express to Union Station in Chicago.
“He was very lucky there were no express or commuter trains at that time of the morning,” said Riverside Police Chief Thomas Weitzel.
When police arrived on the scene, they found Lloyd Webster sitting, uninjured, in his van, which was lodged between the center and south set of tracks.
Webster reportedly told police he believed he was in Chicago and did not know where Riverside was. Asked what he was doing driving around at that early hour, Webster reportedly told police he was trying to deliver some papers to a friend in Chicago. He had no idea how long he had been driving around, but it was likely he was out for a while. Webster lives in the 5000 block of South Racine in Chicago.
“He thought he was in Chicago the entire time we dealt with him,” Weitzel said. “His family has no idea what he was doing there.”
According to Weitzel, the vehicle Webster was driving is registered to him. He lives in Chicago with one other elderly person, whom police contacted after finding Webster stuck on the tracks. Another relative, Webster’s niece, reportedly told police her uncle suffered from Alzheimer’s.
Webster was taken to MacNeal Hospital in Berwyn for observation. He was cited by police for having no valid driver’s license, no proof of insurance and improperly turning onto the railroad tracks.